13 - 15 Months

How to ease your toddler’s fears 

Between 6 and 18 months, your child may develop some unexpected new fears. They may suddenly start to cry at loud sounds that didn’t bother them before, like thunder or the vacuum cleaner, or even start to fear regular parts of their routine, like taking a bath or having their nails trimmed. Or, a familiar dog or family friend may scare them now.

These are common fears that should subside on their own in a few months. In the meantime, here are some tips to help you cope: 

  • Avoid the trigger when possible. If your toddler is scared of a neighbor’s dog approaching, calmly pick them up and move to the other side of the street. Or, if they are scared of taking a bath, try a sponge bath instead. 
  • Prepare them in advance. If you know you’ll be turning on the vacuum or going by the neighbor’s house with the barking dog, tell your toddler what is going to happen. “We are going to walk by Nicola’s house and Rufus may bark. It will be loud for a minute, but we’ll go quickly.” After you get through the tricky moment, let your toddler know you made it. “Wow, Rufus was loud today, but now it’s quiet again!”
  • Reduce the pressure. It can be hard when your toddler starts to fear a familiar relative or friend. Be patient and don’t force it if your toddler doesn’t want to be affectionate or interact with someone. 
  • Notice, name, and validate their feelings. For example, you might say, “That was a loud sound. Are you feeling scared? It was just a car horn honking. We’re safe.” 
  • Help them co-regulate. If something scares your toddler, calmly pick them up out of the stroller or off the floor, and hold them close until they calm down ❤️
  • Remain relaxed. Your toddler learns a lot by watching how you react. Staying calm when they are afraid of the sound of the blender will help your toddler be less fearful the next time they hear it.
  • Create a quick and positive goodbye routine. Separation anxiety can also show up at this age. Be sure to say a quick good-bye each time you leave, reassure your toddler that you will come back, and offer a positive distraction. 

Learn more about the research:

Bridgett, D. J., Gartstein, M. A., Putnam, S. P., Lance, K. O., Iddins, E., Waits, R., … & Lee, L. (2011). Emerging effortful control in toddlerhood: The role of infant orienting/regulation, maternal effortful control, and maternal time spent in caregiving activities. Infant Behavior and Development, 34(1), 189-199.

Ehrenreich, J., Santucci, L. C., & Weiner, C. L. (2008). Separation anxiety disorder in youth: Phenomenology, assessment, and treatment. Psicologia Conductual, 1, 389–412.

Ruffman, T., Slade, L., & Crowe, E. (2002). The relation between children’s and mothers’ mental state language and theory-of-mind understanding. Child Development, 73(3), 734-751.

Scarr, S., & Salapatek, P. (1970). Patterns of fear development during infancy. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 16(1), 53-90.


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Posted in: 13 - 15 Months, 16 - 18 Months, Communication, Social Emotional, Routine, Sensory Development, Lovevery App, Child Development

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